Thursday, March 22, 2007

Folks, Internet Radio REALLY Needs Your Help

SoundExchange (aka the four largest record labels, aka the Recording Industry Association of America, aka the RIAA) issued a statement lauding the copyright hearing process as "fair." The RIAA arguments are insulting to anyone who knows anything about the Copyright Royalty Board's (CRB) decision to adopt the royalty rates proposed by SoundExchange.

The RIAA claims the new royalty rates benefit artists. That is a bald-faced lie. The planned result of the new rates will be to wipe out independent internet radio thereby allowing the big labels to once again control what we hear. The internet music landscape will be dominated by a few media conglomerates, companies more interested in the lowest common denominator than playing good music, just like terrestrial radio.

Getting some royalties from small webcasters is certainly better for artists than getting no royalties once small webcasting is killed off, isn't it?

How did the RIAA get the Copyright Royalty Board to sign off on such clearly one-sided rates? According to the New York Times, during the proceedings a Copyright board member asked if the term “albums” could refer to CDs as well as vinyl records. This guy is making decisions that impact the entire nascent industry of internet radio.

To give you some idea of how one-sided the decision is, the CRB even made the rates retroactive to January 1, 2006, putting most (if not all) independent stations into debt already!

Back to the point, SoundExchange represents the four biggest record labels. These labels have controlled the music industry for years, charging the public outrageous prices for CDs and shortchanging the artists who made the music. Their ability to continue to dominate the landscape was due in large part to the unfair playing field on which smaller labels and independent arists were forced to compete.

The majors have dominated access to regular radio and other music promotion outlets for decades. Suddenly a new technology appeared that threatened to level that unfair playing field -- internet radio. Independent labels and independent artists had outlets through which to get their music played and heard widely.

Desperate for an alternative to the boring, bland, repetitive corporate-owned stations on their FM dials, computer savvy music lovers were all over internet radio. They found hundreds, then thousands of stations offering a previously unthinkable number of programming choices. People listened, they liked, and they clicked on over to the iTunes Music Store,, and band websites to buy this new and interesting music they didn't even know existed. Bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! managed to sell a couple of hundred thousand copies of their debut album without the help of even a small label.

Now the RIAA claims that internet radio provides no promotional benefit to artists...if that is the case, would someone please tell me why labels send me (a small webcaster) dozens of CDs a week? Is it because I'm a swell guy?

The RIAA also claims that internet radio allows people to copy music for free. Well, yeah, it does...just as FM radio has done for decades! A cassette (or digital) copy of FM radio will sound an awful lot like a cassette (or digital) copy of my 64kbps internet radio stream.

Oh, and those free music channels that come with Satellite TV? Recording those to VHS makes for a far better-sounding, higher fidelity copy than any method of recording my internet radio stream ever could.

The rapid spread of broadband internet plus the ubiquitousness of iTunes has put internet radio within a simple double-click of the vast majority of the music buying public, computer saavy or not.

The numbers are staggering -- according to Bridge Ratings & Research, the number of monthly internet radio listeners increased from 45 million at the end of 2005 to 72 million in early 2007. It really is no wonder why the majors, so used to controlling media outlets, are quaking in their boots about internet radio. Sadly, their fear response is to crush independent internet radio. Hopefully you 72 million internet radio regulars are paying attention and signing our petition and contacting your Senators and Representatives.

Read the real story at Broadcast Law Blog, Save Our Internet Radio, Live365, Future of Music, SomaFM, or my very own rant.



1 comment:

kimo said...

Feds Agree To Rethink Internet Radio Royalties
March 22, 2007

In response to protests against expensive new royalties for Internet radio broadcasts, the U.S. Copyright Review Board (CRB) has agreed to hear requests for a new hearing on the issue.